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City reports double digit bike to school rates for first time ever

Posted by on December 10th, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Trillium Charter School bike train-14-12

10.3 percent of parents in a recent
City survey said their kids bike to school.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The City of Portland has just compiled the numbers from their fall 2012 Safe Routes to School parent survey. The results show an encouraging upward trend of biking and walking rates. In fact, 10.3 percent of the fall 2012 survey respondents said they biked to school. That’s a 36 percent increase from fall 2011 and it’s the highest bike mode share recorded they’ve ever recorded.

When taken together, the walking and biking mode share is 42.7 percent — an increase of 38 percent since 2006.

The City’s Safe Routes to School program has been doing these surveys twice a year since 2006. This most recent survey was sent out to parents at 50 of the City’s 80 partner schools where the Safe Routes program is taught. According to Safe Routes program manager Gabe Gaff, they received 2,326 responses.

Other highlights from the fall 2012 survey:

  • The biking and walking mode share was 42.7 percent. That’s the highest combined total ever.
  • By contrast, the survey tallied the lowest “family vehicle” mode share ever at 35.5 percent.
  • The bike mode share has increased 255 percent since 2006

Here’s a PBOT graph showing how the walk/bike total stacks up against the “family vehicle” number:

It’s interesting to look at the long-term trends. Biking shows significant increases, with walking having a more slow and steady rise. Driving, carpooling, and taking the bus, on the other hand, show a decline. Here’s the chart with a breakdown of each mode:

These survey results come after years of strategic focus by PBOT and their partners (most notably the Bicycle Transportation Alliance) to encourage biking and walking at Portland public schools. The Safe Routes program not only includes an educational curriculum that train kids both inside and outside the classroom, but it is complemented with a variety of PBOT initiatives to improve the physical infrastructure around schools including bike parking, safe crossings, bikeways, and more.

Learn more about PBOT’s Safe Routes program on their website.

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  • Todd Boulanger December 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Good show kids [and supportive parents]!!!

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  • Dmitriy Zasyatkin December 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    This is just one of the many reasons why we chose to move to Portland after visiting and biking most of the major cities in the US. No other big city was this family bike friendly, and I am really glad to see the data backing up our qualitative observation.

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    • Lois December 11, 2012 at 11:24 am

      Me too. My job sent me to nearly 40 cities over 5 years. I moved here and brought my tax dollars with me specifically because of the community support for biking, walking and public transit.

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  • dwainedibbly December 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    At first glance, I thought it said “Farm Veh”. 🙂

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  • Gregg December 10, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    I’d love to see some of these stats:
    -Graduation rate for kids that ride to school, vs kids who get driven by a family vehicle.
    -Number of days of school missed by kids who ride bikes, vs kids who get driven by a family vehicle.
    -% of families who walk and bike to schools that are along Sunday Parkways routes, vs schools that are not on the route.

    I give a lot of credit to the local Safe Routes to Schools as well as Sunday Parkways for some of the changes in the way kids get to school. It looks like a good place to increase funding for this programs, rather than decrease funding.

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    • 9watts December 11, 2012 at 9:24 am

      I wonder what the rate was in, say, 1905, or 1955?

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  • Bjorn December 10, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    The really unfortunate thing about the way the state hands out funds for school buses is that the schools lose money when they get kids to bike to school. The state should provide funds for encouraging kids to walk and bike since they could even just give 1/2 as much as they pay for yellow bus and they would save money in the long run.

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    • 9watts December 13, 2012 at 10:19 am

      Can you say a bit more about this?

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  • Matt December 10, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Can we thank Kiel Johnson for this good news?

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  • Emily December 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Hopefully the current neighborhood school redesign also known as enrollment balancing (currently happening in N/NE PDX) keeps these stats intact and going up. The farther away the school is the harder biking or walking there is.

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  • ws December 10, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    It’s one of the greatest tragedies of suburbia that we didn’t at least try to make schools more walkable.

    My favorite picture elucidating this point is middle school in Beaverton with 4 pedestrian-unpassable cul-de-sacs to the south of the school, not to mention the killer arterial street to the north:

    And then we dare to question why kids are becoming obese!

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    • Mark Allyn December 11, 2012 at 10:21 am

      When I was a kid, we had a similar cul-de-sac that prevented me from completing my paper route. I was able to get permission from one of the property owners to cut through their driveway.

      I wonder if the same could be arranged here with those four cul-de-sacs. It’s hard to tell if the land adjacent to them is public or private.

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    • oliver December 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Suburbs weren’t designed to be walked. Walking “creates” inner city problems like theft, violence and kidnapping. No, keep your kids in your car, where they are “safe”.

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  • Spiffy December 11, 2012 at 7:24 am

    it’s crazy to think of how common it has become to drive kids to school over the last 30 years… when I was in school everybody walked and biked, very few took the bus, and virtually nobody got a ride from parents…

    it’s sad to think that it took this long to start turning that trend around…

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    • Indy December 11, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      I walk my kids the 2.2 miles to their private school, as most parents drive by beeping and waving at us. It’s quite amazing how so many offer to give us rides. No thanks! It’s an incredible opportunity I have to connect with my kids and I’ll never go back to the old way.

      Also, my kids grumble about the cold/weather for maybe 5 minutes. But by the end of the trip we’re all being goofy in much better moods. ALWAYS. Rain or shine. So worth it.

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  • Vincer December 11, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Congrats are in order!
    Many thanks to Kiel Johnson & BIKETRAINPDX !!!

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  • grimm December 11, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I’m always glad when I see big bike rack in front of an elementary I pass nearly everyday totally full.

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  • Lois December 11, 2012 at 11:19 am

    The BTA has been doing in-school bicycle safety classes for almost 15 years and will be teaching their 50,000th child in 2013! The first kids who were educated in the program are now in their early 20s and many of them are probably influencing their friends, co-workers and families to ride more. Hundreds of teachers and thousands of parents were also touched and influenced by these BTA Walk+Bike Education Programs. I’m a new board member and only recently found out about the depth of the BTA’s programs, so I’m super excited to help share the news about what they do.

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  • Karen Frost December 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks, Lois for the credit to BTA. It was Scott Bricker in 1998 who designed the curriculum and instituted the bike safety program with grant funding from ODOT’s Transportation Safety Division and the special attention of Division Administrator Troy Costales. After many successful years with the work of hundreds of loyal volunteers and the support of many statewide bike shops, BTA invited the city of Portland to be a partner to expand the program. What a great success the collaboration has brought. Congrats to all.

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  • Lindsay & Jack December 19, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Portland is such a wonderful bubble in America, slowly spreading, keep up the good work and inspiration!

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